The delicious effect of espresso foam [research study]

May 26th, 2017

Two scientists in Japan studied how the foam on a fresh cup of espresso makes that drink so thermodynamically delicious. My “Improbable Research” column on the RealClearLife web site gives details. It begins:

What’s not so hot about hot coffee —no matter how much you love it — is how quickly it cools.

Two Japanese scientists noticed that espresso has an advantage over plain coffee, in maintaining the right temperature. So they poured into some research to get to the bottom of the phenomenon. Their newly published study tells how and why espresso lets a drinker linger longer over a cuppa…

BONUS: The RealClearLife column is new. The first item I did for it is about whether time seems to stand still when you are in a Mercedes-Benz automobile that crashes.

Beer is a Rich Source of Flouride — Anti-Flouridation Forces Take Note!

May 26th, 2017

The international campaign against adding flouride to public water supplies has just had a monkey wrench thrown into their works. A new study reports that flouride is in the beer supply, in considerable amounts. The study is:

Beer as a Rich Source of Fluoride Delivered into the Body,” D. Styburski, I. Baranowska-Bosiacka, M. Goschorska, D. Chlubek, and I. Gutowska, Biological Trace Element Research, 2016, pp. 1-5. (Thanks to Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Pomeranian Medical University, Poland, report:

“Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world. Due to its prevalence and volume of consumption, it should be considered as a potential source of F- and taken into account in designing a balanced diet. Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze beer samples in terms of F- levels…. When compared to imported beers, Polish beers were characterized by the lowest mean F- concentration (0.089 ppm). The highest mean F- concentrations were recorded in beers from Thailand (0.260 ppm), Italy (0.238 ppm), Mexico (0.210 ppm), and China (0.203 ppm). Our study shows that beer is a significant source of fluoride for humans, which is mainly associated with the quality of the water used in beer production.”

This chart, from the study, shows “Fluoride mean concentration and SD in beers from different countries. (Statistical significant differences p ≤ 0.05)”:

The vast weight of scientific investigation finds that small extra amounts of flouride improves public health. But… anti-flouride campaigners worry that adding flouride to public water supplies —though intended to help improve the teeth and bones of the people who drink that water — might in some way instead poison everyone. That worry is deep-seated:

The disturbing there’s-flouride-in-our-beer newsdifficulty for the anti-flouridation forces comes not long after seemingly happy news: a study showing that chocolate and tea might be better than flouride at protecting teeth. That study is:

Theobromine: A Safe and Effective Alternative for Fluoride in Dentifrices,” Nakamoto Tetsuo, Alexander U. Falster, and  William B. Simmons, Jr., Journal of Caffeine Research. vol. 6, no. 1, February 2016, pp. 1-9. The authors, at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and at the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, Bethel, Maine, explain:

“During the process of studying caffeine’s effects on developing teeth, a serendipitous discovery was made. Teeth comprise hydroxylapatite (HAP). Ingestion of caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) caused the formation of smaller crystallites of HAP in the developing teeth. This resulted in the increased release of calcium and phosphorus ions from the enamel surface when exposed to acidic solutions in vitro. Furthermore, animal study confirmed the hypothesis that smaller HAP crystallites caused the increased incidence of dental caries. In contrast, theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine), which is similar to caffeine, caused formation of larger HAP crystallites in vitro. The ingestion of theobromine by lactating dams showed a decreased release of calcium and phosphorus ions from the enamel surface in the developing teeth of neonates in vivo. The use of fluoride dentifrices is controversial. It is also well documented that young children who brush their teeth often ingest fluoride-containing dentifrices. Based upon our comparative study between fluoride and theobromine, theobromine is a better alternative than fluoride. We believe that theobromine can be used as an ingredient of dentifrices and even if swallowed accidentally, there are no adverse effects.”

European Goo

May 26th, 2017

European goo gets a good going over, intellectually, in this marginal paper:

Black Goo: Forceful Encounters with Matter in Europe’s Muddy Margins,” Stuart McLean [pictured here], Cultural Anthropology, vol. 26, no. 4, 2011, pp. 589–619. The author, at the University of Minnesota, explains;

“This essay undertakes an evocative conjuration of alternative visions of materialism through consideration of intermediary states of matter. Specifically, it focuses on gelid, semi-liquid, semi-solid environments such as bogs, swamps and marshes lying on the fringes of human settlement and against which the claims of reason and historical progress have often been staked. The paper juxtaposes ethnographic and historical examples from Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia and Siberia with reflections on (amongst others) Bachofen, Bataille and Hegel. In doing so it seeks both to explore the limits of certain canonical formulations of historicity and historical knowledge and to ask what new cultural and political imaginaries and what possible futures might become thinkable through a more sustained engagement with the recalcitrant materiality of Europe’s muddy margins.”

Shouting and Cursing while Driving (a new study)

May 25th, 2017

Researchers Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge and Mª Luisa Ballestar at INTRAS (University Research Institute on Traffic and Road Safety), University of Valencia, Spain, have performed a new study on shouting and cursing whilst driving.

“The aim of this study was to describe the factors and perceptions related to aggressive behavior of verbally insulting and shouting out while driving. In this study, it was described an extensive list of behaviors that experts consider more or less unanimously as ‘aggressive driving’, one of them described as shouting and insult.”

“If we find that a person shouting and insult, one may be inclined to imitate such behavior in order to reach their destination before. In this sense, we might consider aggressive driving as a form of self-behavior of our culture, ingrained since childhood, learned first observed as passenger behavior of older people, and later put into practice, it is reinforced by the media communication. It has not to be forgotten the fact that in our society there is a widespread tendency to represent the vehicle as a private territory on the road, a kind of home on wheels moving with oneself and whose integrity must be maintained at all costs. In this sense it seems justifiable to point out that the aggressive impulse may represent innate feelings of territorial rights, serving as a basis for many dangerous and inconsiderate behavior on the roads.”

See [open access]: ‘Shouting and Cursing while Driving: Frequency, Reasons, Perceived Risk and Punishment’ in the Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 2017, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 1-7



LIMERICK CONTEST: Cigarettes in a Milkshake

May 24th, 2017

This month’s contest — Devise a pleasing limerick that encapsulates this study:

The Smoking Milkshake,” Jennifer Thomas and Paul E. Luebbers, American Journal of Health Education, vol. 40, no. 6, 2009, pp. 322-328. The authors, at Emporia State University, explain:

“Cigarettes can have many ingredients. Philip Morris, the nations largest cigarette manufacturer, uses over 200 ingredients in the production of their cigarettes (Figure 1). Distribute the Cigarette Ingredients/Effects Worksheet (Figure 3), and explain that using several of the listed ingredients, they, as a class, will assist the teacher in making a ‘Smoking Milkshake.’ ”

(This limerick contest appears in the May 2017 issue of mini-AIR, our newsletter of bits too tiny to fit in the magazine. A new limerick contest appears every month. You can sign up to receive mini-AIR by email, if you like!)